Latest:

What goes up must come down: How will gravity catch up with Apple?

Jason Murphy

THE 2015 Interbrand report has named Apple the coolest, most desirable, most valuable brand, worth a staggering $170 billion.

You have to go a long way down to find second place — Google, worth $120 billion. In third place, looking on glumly like Ian Thorpe in his comeback phase, is former champ Coca-Cola at $78 billion.

Apple’s rise to global hegemon has been uber swift. In 2000 the fruit with a bite missing was ranked just 36th and worth a measly $7 billion.

The shine of the company is not wearing off — not one bit. Apple announced a new iPhone just days ago and it has gone bonkers.

Apple Sold ‘more Than’ 13 Million New IPhones, Setting Opening Weekend Record

“Sales for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been phenomenal, blowing past any previous first weekend sales results in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Customers’ feedback is incredible.’

That’s why it is the most valuable company in the world. If you bought $100 worth of shares ten years ago you’d have $1000 worth now.

If only you’d bought thousands of shares 10 years ago. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?

If only you’d bought thousands of shares 10 years ago. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?Source:Supplied

It feels like this era of supremacy will last forever. But Newtonian physics tells us that what goes up must come down. Here’s the three ways it could all fall down.

THE BLACKBERRY

In about 2007 BlackBerry was the bleeding edge of innovation, selling phones with a full keyboard. Every executive in the world either had a BlackBerry or wanted one — they meant you were important. Now the company is a joke.

Oh dear.

Oh dear.Source:Supplied

Technology trends change and it’s not enough for your product to be just okay. It has to be amazing. Ask Nokia.

Apple has more cash than a small nation — actually more cash than a medium size nation — so it ought to be able to come up with incredible new features nobody has seen before.

But cash is no substitute for inspiration. There are signs the spark is missing at Apple. When Steve Jobs was alive their new products were incredible and had features you’d never seen before.

Now their new iPhones’ cool features are mostly a list of things Samsung did last year — bigger screen or a bigger battery.

One sign Apple’s judgment may be imperfect comes in the form of the Apple watch. It was a dog of a product. And consumers reacted in kind.

The Apple watch failed to take off. Is anyone wearing these things?

The Apple watch failed to take off. Is anyone wearing these things?Source:The Wall Street Journal

Just one generation of bad iPhones could be enough to turn consumers off the Apple ecosystem forever and send the company plunging to earth.

And rumour is Apple is spending that cash on making an electric car. When companies try to play in a whole different market, that’s rarely a good sign.

There are many competitors lurking for Apple — not just Samsung but also the Chinese company’s Xiaomi.

Apple is especially vulnerable because so much of its revenue comes from the iPhone — More than 60 per cent, up from less than 40 per cent five years ago. If the iPhone ceased to be so scoldingly hot, the company would survive but be left to rely on its far less sexy MacBooks and iTunes for revenue.

THE VOLKSWAGEN

The German car brand zoomed into reverse in this year’s brand rankings because of a scandal over fuel efficiency. VVolkswagen cheated the rules and sold cars that puffed fumes like a smoker while claiming their breath smelled clear and sweet. An old fashioned screw-up and cover-up is a classic way for good brands to go bad.

Apple has already seen one scandal when its cloud photo storage was hacked. That came to light when nude celebrity photos were posted on the internet. Who knows what other data might be leaking out that we don’t know about?

A big scandal is among the fastest ways for a brand to expire. We’re not saying Apple is rotten to the core. But any brand that has so much of your data in its clutches is ripe for a hack attack.

THE KODAK

Apple could shrivel without even losing its grip on the smartphone category. Look at Kodak. It went broke in 2012, and came back as a shadow of its former self. The company was the best at what it did til the end — but who buys film?

Remember this guy? And remember when you used to print photos?

Remember this guy? And remember when you used to print photos?Source:Supplied

Smartphones feel like such a part of our lives it’s hard to imagine getting by without them. But they could be eclipsed. Look at Apple’s previous flagship product, the iPod. Remember when they launched it? It was the last word in cool. But it basically disappeared when its functions were absorbed into the smartphone.

It’s hard to imagine what could substitute for a smartphone. Whatever it might be probably won’t come out now or even next year. But you can bet some Silicon Valley start-up is working on it, and planning for the day when they’re the top brand in the world.

Of course, this story — written on an Apple product — is just an exercise in imagination. The #8 top brand in the world — General Electric — shows how a company can stay at the top for the long run.

Founded in 1892 when Thomas Edison’s lightglobe company merged with another electric company, General Electric is now a giant multi-billion dollar conglomerate that sells everything from aeroplane engines to insurance.

So if, for example, its electric car idea takes off, Apple could be dominant for centuries to come.

If the cues for the iPhone 6s in Sydney last month are anything to go by, Apple looks like they’ll enjoy a bit more time at the top. Picture: William West / AFP Photo

If the cues for the iPhone 6s in Sydney last month are anything to go by, Apple looks like they’ll enjoy a bit more time at the top. Picture: William West / AFP PhotoSource:AFP